At Citi Field, with the help of former players Rusty Staub, Edgardo Alfonzo and John Franco, the Mets raised their National League championship banner. Then the Mets proceeded to have a banner day themselves with a 7-2 thumping of the slumping Phillies. Meanwhile back on Peconic Lane, on the East End of Long Island, I also had a banner day, with three more wineries and 13 wines.
First stop on my tour was Sannino Bella Vita Vineyards, where Anthony and Lisa Sannino have a popular boutique winery. The tasting room is located in an historic 1900’s barn on Peconic Lane between the Main Road and Country Road 48 in Peconic. Wine has been part of Anthony’s life since he was a teenager when he watched his grandfather make wine. In 1993 he began the American Wine Society wine judge certification program and shortly afterwards started to make his own wine. He also began a formal education in construction engineering and architecture. While he was getting a good feel for the passion of winemaking, he started to get the urge to learn about the mechanics of winemaking. This inspired him to visit various regions, including Long Island, to see how wine was made. After a degree at UC Davis in 1998, he volunteered at various Long Island wineries. In 2006, Anthony and his wife purchased a Cutchogue vineyard and using his training as a builder, built a home on the property, which is now a popular B&B, where guests can sit back and relax by the vineyard and sip on a glass of wine.
Education is a big part in the experience at Sannino Bella Vita. In addition to weekly vineyard tours, they are the first winery in the region to offer a Vine-to-Wine program, where participants can take part in a complete hands-on winemaking experience (thus, from vine to wine). They also do a processing facility tour, a barrel cellar tour and a blending class. I’ve done the vineyard tour, which I can recommend highly. Next on my list is to do their blending class.
For my tasting, I went with three reds, all from 2013: Syrah, Cab Franc and Spotlight Petit Verdot. All of which were delicious and noteworthy, especially the Petit Verdot. The name Spotlight is a classification only used in years when the red grapes have time to fully ripen. Aged for 22 months in a 50/50 blend of French and Hungarian oak, the Petit Verdot is a wine that can be aged for at least a decade. Also noteworthy was my conversation with Jennifer who was handling the tasting room that day. And yes, we talked about the wines, but we also talked about farming on Long Island, farm fresh eggs, photographing barns and the benefits of raw milk.
Just down the road is the Winemaker Studio, a cooperative tasting room started by winemaker Anthony Nappa which features the wines of Long Island winemakers. The Winemaker Studio continues the tradition started by Comtesse Therese in the old Tasting Room by providing an important outlet for private label wines, many of which have no tasting room. Anthony Nappa, studied botany at the University of Massachusetts and completed a degree from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture. After his formal training in winemaking in New Zealand, he also worked Southern Italy, California and Massachusetts. Anthony moved to the east end of Long Island in 2007, when he became the winemaker at Shinn Estates. In 2013, he became the head winemaker at Raphael Vineyards. In addition to the wines of Anthony Nappa, they have available the private label wines for John Leo (Leo Family Wines), Russell Hearn (Suhru Wines and T’Jara Vineayrds), Greg Gove (Race Wines), Erik Bilka, (Influence Wines), Adam Suprenant (Coffee Pot Cellars) and Robin Epperson McCarthy (Saltbird Cellars).
Here I did two side-by-side comparisons of wines from 2013 and 2014. First was the Luminous, Anthony Nappa’s Riesling made from grapes from the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Then I did a comparison the Sciardonne (the Italian word for Chardonnay), made from grapes from the North Fork. All four wines were high in acidity and minerality and like all of Anthony’s wines were food friendly. This prompted me to walk over to Provisions and Ingredients, a combination market and Italian delicatessen adjacent to the tasting room that is run by Anthony’s wife Sarah Evans Nappa. The market carries a variety of foods, imported from Italy as well as locally sourced from New York State. Anthony and Sarah believe that food and wine are best enjoyed together. Thus, these two connected shops form the American equivalent of an Italian enoteca, where you can eat, drink, shop and relax all in one place. I had the Amish Paradise, a black forest ham and baby Swiss pressed sandwich. This was accompanied by a glass of the 2014 La Strega, their wild-fermented Malbec. And these were accompanied by a lively conversation with Derek Spencer Gerard, Education Director at the Winemaker Studio. I’ve known Derek since his days as tasting room manager at Laurel Lake Vineyards, where he began working in 2009. You can get a sense of Derek’s joy for life and his sense of humor by looking at the description on his Google Plus account: “I work with wine, I drink wine, I write about wine, and I’m contemplating bathing in wine.” In addition to being an expert on wine, he is also a husband, father, guitarist, bassist and blogger. He is also a heck of a nice guy.
A few miles away on the Main Road is Osprey Dominion, whose vines go back to 1983. Osprey and winemaker Adam Suprenant believe that wine should be produced with the least amount of human interference and let the location (between two bodies of water) and the soil speak for themselves. Adam was first introduced to wines in the early eighties by his dad, who was an avid wine enthusiast and brought his son to tastings of the great wine estates of France, Germany and Italy. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in plant science from Cornell University in 1985, Adam worked a season at Villa Banfi Vineyard in Old Brookville under the guidance of Fred Frank, the nephew of legendary winemaker and pioneer Konstantin Frank. His next job was as a salesman at the upscale Manhattan wine store Sherry-Lehman. He also waited on tables in New York City at various restaurants, including Tavern on the Green in Manhattan, before deciding to move to California and enroll in UC Davis. After graduating with a degree in oenology, he did internships at Chateau Lafite Rothschild in Bordeaux and the Trefethen Family Vineyards in California. While visiting the vineyards of Long Island during the Christmas holidays, Adam, against the advice of his California colleagues who thought he was committing career suicide, accepted a job as the winemaker at Gristina on the East End of Long island. Three years later, he moved over to Osprey’s Dominion, where he has been for the past 15 years. At Adam’s suggestion, owner Bud Koehler agreed to replant a significant portion of the vineyard. They added Pinot Gris, Carménère, Malbec and Petit Verdot. In 2008 Adam started his own label Coffee Pot Cellars and together with his wife Laura Klahre (proprietor of Blossom Meadow Farm) opened a tasting room in Cutchogue in 2013.
My first priority was to taste two South American grapes. First the 2012 Malbec, a grape that has been gaining more and more exposure on the East End. Then the 2012 Carménère, an old Bordeaux grape that has been recently rediscovered by the wineries of Chile. Osprey is the first producer of this rare varietal. While lighter than the South American counterparts, these wines were perfectly suited to my cold region palate. I next had the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and ended my day with the 2010 Meritage. I was about to head out, when Adam wandered into the tasting room and told me that I could not leave without tasting the 2014 Pinot Noir, which was just released. With notes of ripe plums and black cherries, the wine held the promise of greatness.
While I’ve logged almost 1,400 miles and visited over 30 wineries and tasted over 100 wines, I struck out and did not meet my deadline of visiting all the Long Island wineries between the start of spring training and the Mets home opener. But unlike the Cubs, who haven’t won a World Series since 1908, I don’t have to clean out my locker and wait until next year. True, I missed my deadline, but the season isn’t over for me. One of the joys of baseball is that there is no clock, you just keep playing until somebody wins. So, even though the Mets home opener has come and gone, I’ll keep on playing. As Yogi famously said, “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.”
Today’s Line Score: 3 wineries, 13 wines and 139 miles.
Season Statistics: 34 wineries, 130 wines and 1,420 miles